NEW YORK — The Washington Capitals took the ice against the New York Rangers down a number of players due to injury. A healthy member of the team was also out of the depleted lineup: Garnet Hathaway.
The team's gritty fourth-line forward received a three-game suspension prior to the game for spitting on Ducks defenseman Erik Gudbranson on Monday following a punch to the face. He had a hearing on Tuesday, where he had a "fair chance to explain my side" of the story before the decision came out a day later.
According to Hathaway, the league categorized the situation under "intent to injure." The NHL rulebook cites intent to injure in Rule 21.1, in which a match penalty is assessed to a player who deliberately attempts to injure or does injure another player. That's the punishment he received Monday and may have further factored into the length of the suspension.
While unhappy with the league's decision, Hathaway said he chose not to appeal and ultimately takes accountability for what he had called an "emotional play," "a quick reaction and unfortunately, the wrong one."
"[The suspension] was tough to swallow because I want to be out there with the guys. I felt helpless tonight, and I let the guys down in the room and I let the organization down," Hathaway said following Washington's 4-1 loss to the Rangers. "I had a fair opportunity to explain my side of things and how I saw the events unfold.
"In my view, it was a hectic situation coming out of a fight. There was a third and fourth man that came in and I got sucker-punched a few times and I let my emotions take over and I had an emotional reaction that I regret. I wish it didn't happen and no one regrets it or is more disappointed than I am."
The incident occurred in the second period of the Caps' 5-2 win over the Ducks on Monday. Brendan Leipsic delivered a heavy hit on Derek Grant behind the Anaheim net. In response, a brawl broke out between each team's fourth-liners, including a fight between Hathaway and Grant. Following his fight with Grant, the 27-year-old then saw Nick Ritchie and Gudbranson come after him, and after Gudbranson punched Hathaway in the face, he retaliated by spitting and received a five-minute fighting major, match penalty and game misconduct.
All hell breaks loose between the Ducks and Caps, and Garnet Hathaway gets a game misconduct as he spits On Erik Gudbranson pic.twitter.com/MzWfPHJ9rv
— Hockey Central (@HockeyCentraI) November 19, 2019
Head coach Todd Reirden said that the team stands by the league's decision, but also expressed that it'll be hard for Washington without him in the lineup. In turn, a number of young players, including recent forward call-ups Beck Malenstyn and Michael Sgarbossa, will fill the voids that he — as well as the likes of Nicklas Backstrom (day-to-day), Carl Hagelin (LTIR) and Nic Dowd (IR) — leaves behind.
And at the end of the day, there may be a positive out of the situation, as Reirden said this can serve as a learning experience for Hathaway and the club as a whole."
"I've spoken highly of this player and that's something he regrets ... he's an important part of our team, so it's a tough, tough situation to go through and he'll be a better person for it in the long run," Reirden said.
Washington will next face the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. ET, and Hathaway will be able to return Wednesday, Nov. 27, when the Capitals face the Florida Panthers.
"It was out of my hands and now as a team, I hope we can move past it," Hathaway said of the incident.